Americans love The Bible TV series, but ambivalent about book

(The Bible)Cruxifiction scene from The Bible

The crucifixion scenes in the conclusion of The Bible series on television did not convince TV critics some of whom said it was "painful" and not convincing, evoking similar sentiment to to some of the findings in a national survey on the book.

The Bible on the History Channel ministries was described as one March's media success stories by Barna Group which found in its recent survey that the Bible is actually owned by virtually nine out of 10 Americans (88 perent).

The first episode of The Bible, which premiered on March 3, had 13.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen, making it the highest entertainment, or non-sports broadcast of 2013 in the United States.

The reaction to the TV series drew overseas media attention being profiled on the  BBC and critiqued in newspapers.

The interest in a cable series makes it clear the American public is certainly fascinated by the Bible.

But what do Americans actually think about the Bible? Do they believe it to be sacred, authoritative or merely nonsense?

Do they try to follow its exhortations, or do they regard the Bible as antiquated literature? Does the Bible still matter—besides television ratings—to Americans?

The recent survey from the Barna Group, commissioned by the American Bible Society, provides some insight into these questions.

Commissioned by the American Bible Society, a recent survey released last Wednesday by the Barna Group highlights the relationship Americans have with the Bible.

The study surfaced just two weeks after TV series The Bible drew its big audience.

The Barna Group study found that although the majority of The Bible series was watched by Christians, 27 percent of non-Christian adults tuned in to all or part of the series.

"There's a healthy cultural respect for and fascination with Scripture, which helps to explain why millions have tuned into The Bible series. People seem to be open to experiencing ancient scriptures in new ways," the president of Barna Group, David Kinnaman, concluded in the report.

Overall, the study shows that more people respond to the Bible antagonistically.

The percentage of people who believe the Bible is another book of stories and advice written by men has increased seven percentage points since 2011.

Those engaged with the text, or those who read the Bible roughly four times a week and who believe the text is the inspired word of God has remained relatively stagnant at 21 percent.

The number of people who are neutral about the Bible is decreasing.

"The middle ground related to the Bible seems to be disappearing. The decrease of Bible-neutral and Bible-friendly people and the increase of Bible-antagonists suggest that more people are picking a side," said Kinnaman in the report.

"It echoes the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans—these changes are perhaps less about the decline in belief and more about there being less cultural baggage to identifying as skeptical or disbelieving."

Despite growing antagonism with the Biblical text, the study shows that the Bible remains a significant moral guide.

Thirty-two percent of the 77 percent of adults who believe America's overall morals and values are declining point to lack of Bible reading as the main reason.

A high percentage of adults 18-28 years old, or Mosaics as they are dubbed, are interested in the Bible's wisdom on dating, death, and parenting when compared to other generations surveyed who may read the Bible more.

"It is a surprising expression of openness to Christianity amidst a generational cohort that is increasingly post-religious," said Kinnaman.

The "State of the Bible, 2013" report consisted of 2,083 interviews with adults 18 and over held via telephone and online survey Jan. 16 - Jan. 23. There is a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percent. Since 1984, the Ventura, California based group has conducted and analyzed research pertaining to faith and culture.

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